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News ECOSWF members need to know. There are lots of people in our ever growing community and this will help us all stay connected and informed about the different events going on.

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 http://www.winknews.com/2016/02/11/gov-scott-requests-immediate-action-to-address-lake-o-water-releases/

WINK

Gov. Scott requests ‘immediate action’ to address ‘Lake O’ water releases

February 11, 2016

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott has requested the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to raise water levels to help alleviate flooding in the Everglades Water Conservation Areas and limit the release of water from Lake Okeechobee.

In a letter addressed to Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, Scott requested the Corps of Engineers to raise the water level of the L-29 canal to 8.5 feet so that “substantial volumes” of water can be moved from Water Conservation Area 3 to the Everglades National Park through the Shark River Slough.

“Moving water south out of the Water Conservation Areas will prevent the die off of wildlife whose habitat is currently flooded due to the heavy rainfall and also allow us to move more water from Lake Okeechobee south, relieving pressure from discharges to the Estuaries,” Scott wrote. “The wildlife in the Water Conservation Area cannot sustain prolonged flooding and the economies that rely on the estuaries need immediate relief.”

The letter, sent on Thursday, comes one day after the mayors of Lee County’s six municipalities held an emergency meeting to discuss steps to address the water releases. The group wants the Corps of Engineers to be more open in why and when they decide to release water from the lake, for state legislators to support the “Legacy Florida” bill that would provide more funding for Everglades preservation and for the community to fully support an effort where costs are expected to run into the billions.

Recent rainfall has resulted in record water levels at the lake, forcing the Corps of Engineers to release maximum levels of brown, murky water into the Caloosahachee River, which flows into the Gulf of Mexico.

The water releases prevent the dike that holds the lake water from being damaged or collapsing, which nearby residents say would result in an event similar to the levee breeches during Hurricane Katrina. But the dark water has created an eyesore for tourists and businesses along Lee County’s beaches.

More than 3.7 billion gallons of lake water is being released daily into the Caloosahatchee River. About 2 billion gallons are also being released to the east coast through the St. Lucie River.

The Corps of Engineers have said they cannot afford to stop the releases because water levels rise even after rainfall has stopped.

“I have instructed the Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District to devote all necessary resources to provide relief for this region,” Scott wrote in conclusion. “The State of Florida stands ready to address this situation. However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is critical to this equation and your immediate action is essential.”

 
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 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-farago/on-big-sugars-pollution-o_b_9208280.html

Huffington Post

On Big Sugar's Pollution of Florida, Social Media Could Spark a Political Revolution

By Alan Farago

02/11/2016 07:48 am ET | Updated 1 hour ago

On Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, hundreds of thousands of viewers are sharing photos, videos, and terse observations on the massive destruction caused by the release of hundreds of billions of filthy water from Lake Okeechobee -- thanks to Big Sugar's control of the Florida legislature and Congress.

Historic January rains in Florida are draining from the center of the state and coating both east and west coasts with polluted farm runoff, mostly from Big Sugar. The disaster has turned into a flood on social media. That flood is newsworthy of itself, in an electorally critical state holding its presidential primary in March.

There is a very large audience for information how a few billionaires are holding Florida hostage to profit schemes based on shifting their pollution onto the backs of taxpayers; in this case, wrecking billions of dollars of coastal real estate and tourism-based businesses to keep sugar fields dry.

These are not a few hundred people trolling the blogs. Social media, in the weeks before the March presidential primaries, is attracting hundreds of thousands of viewers who will vote.

This video by fishing guide Michael Conner has been viewed on Facebook nearly 300,000 times:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-farago/on-big-sugars-pollution-o_b_9208280.html

And it's not just the east coast of Florida that is affected. Big Sugar has always relied on the geographic separation of the Gulf from the Atlantic to keep voters divided.

Through social media, the rampant abuse by polluters is linking outraged citizens the west coast with their counterparts on the east coast. Bullsugar.org on Facebook has recruited nearly 40,000 viewers.

On Wednesday in the state capitol, Democratic leader Mark Pafford demonstrated the intransigence of the GOP-controlled legislature, blocking state purchase of land from Big Sugar south of Lake Okeechobee that could eventually solve the pollution crisis. Even Republican elected leaders from the most polluted regions of the state-- like Senator Joe Negron -- ignored and allowed Pafford's bill to die.

The bill would have allocated moneys to buy lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area, south of Lake Okeechobee for storage marshes adequate to hold and cleanse sugar's filthy discharges.

Not even a 2014 constitutional amendment, approved by more than 75 percent of Florida voters, for land acquisition has swayed legislators to fixing the Lake Okeechobee disaster. Social media could do the job, showing graphic images how Big Sugar billionaires fertilize the Republican majority just like sulfates from its half million acres using drainage canals like sewage pipes.

The flood on social media targeting Big Sugar is skipping past print journalism, OPEDs carefully crafted to avoid antagonizing its advertisers, and is even vaulting beyond environmental groups.

It will take a political revolution to fix what is wrong with Florida. That could happen if those hundreds of thousands on social media gather millions and turn anger against Big Sugar into votes. When people lead, leaders follow.

 
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 The process is explained visually in this University of Florida video

http://www.tcpalm.com/topstories/legislature-slow-to-act-on-indian-river-lagoons-septic-tank-pollution-25ed382c-328a-655c-e053-010000-360606661.html?d=mobile

TC Palm

Legislature slow to act on Indian River Lagoon’s septic tank pollution

By Isadora Rangel of the TCPalm

Yesterday 4:00 a.m.

There are as many as 600,000 septic tanks in the five counties along the Indian River Lagoon and pollution from them is a primary source of pollution in the estuary, a recent study found.

Yet septic tanks have not received as much attention in the Legislature in the last two years as other lagoon polluters, such as Lake Okeechobee discharges.

The last time lawmakers addressed the issue in a comprehensive manner was 2012, when it repealed mandatory septic tank inspections once every five years.

Environmentalists hope increased awareness about the harms of septic tanks will encourage lawmakers to consider new statewide policies to reduce their numbers and determine how much it would cost to help local governments switch to sewers.

A comprehensive water policy that will be heard in the January-through-March legislative session requires the state to identify septic tanks that significantly contribute to pollution in springs area in central and northern Florida and authorizes money for sewer conversions. That same approach has yet to be used for the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.

Lawmakers will tread carefully to protect the environment without trampling on property rights. Stringent regulations likely would face a backlash from property owners and builders, as did the now-defunct law mandating inspections, which Stuart Sen. Joe Negron opposed.

"What I don't support is having government come to people's property and inspect their septic tanks and inform them they have a $20,000 bill to replace a septic tank or have to pay a giant fee to hook up to sewer lines," said Negron, a Republican who will be Senate president in 2017-18.

SCIENTIFIC Evidence

Septic systems dump more than 4.4 million pounds of nitrogen every year into the 156-mile-long lagoon, although Lake Okeechobee discharges are responsible for dumping more nutrients in the southern lagoon, according to a study released in November by Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. Even septic tanks that function properly don't remove nitrogen and phosphorus, both contributors to toxic algae blooms.

Martin County, which commissioned the study, is considering whether to require all properties to be on a sewer line if there's one available.

Brian Lapointe, Harbor Branch research professor and study team leader, said he hopes increased scientific evidence of the harms of septic systems pushes lawmakers to implement a statewide program to identify the areas where septic tanks should be replaced with sewer lines and to secure more funding to help replace tanks near troubled waters. That's what happened in the Florida Keys, where the state mandated all Monroe County properties be connected to sewers.

Republican Rep. Debbie Mayfield of Vero Beach pushed for a simpler solution last year with a bill that would have allowed for a less-expensive hybrid system the city wanted to implement, which connects septic tanks to sewer lines. The bill died and the city has been lobbying the Department of Health to approve the projects without legislative action.

The state shouldn't leave the decision to counties and municipalities, Lapointe said, because their elected officials face more pressure from property owners who don't want to pay for the switch, which can cost anywhere from roughly $5,000 to $20,000. To offset those costs, local governments can apply for Department of Environmental Protection grants or ask the Legislature for money.

"Most of us have realized this is a problem," Lapointe said. "Having this density of septic tanks in this poor soil condition and high water tables is a recipe for disaster, and that's exactly what we are seeing play out."

Amendment 1

The state should spend more money for septic-to-sewer conversions, Negron said, but added local governments and property owners should share in the cost as they do today.

Amendment 1 provides a new funding source, he said. Voters last year approved the land and water conservation measure to dedicate one-third of real estate transaction tax revenue to buy, restore and improve conservation land and water resources. While Negron said improving sewer systems fits that purpose, many environmentalists and Amendment 1 sponsors oppose using the money for septic-to-sewer conversion. They say that's the responsibility of local governments.

Whatever the funding source, the longer communities wait to switch, the more expensive it becomes as labor and materials costs increase with inflation, Lapointe said.

"My point is, you can pay now or you can pay later," he said. "This is why it comes back to leadership in Tallahassee. It needs to begin there and trickle down to local governments

By Isadora Rangel of the TCPalm

Yesterday 4:00 a.m.

There are as many as 600,000 septic tanks in the five counties along the Indian River Lagoon and pollution from them is a primary source of pollution in the estuary, a recent study found.

Yet septic tanks have not received as much attention in the Legislature in the last two years as other lagoon polluters, such as Lake Okeechobee discharges.

The last time lawmakers addressed the issue in a comprehensive manner was 2012, when it repealed mandatory septic tank inspections once every five years.

Environmentalists hope increased awareness about the harms of septic tanks will encourage lawmakers to consider new statewide policies to reduce their numbers and determine how much it would cost to help local governments switch to sewers.

A comprehensive water policy that will be heard in the January-through-March legislative session requires the state to identify septic tanks that significantly contribute to pollution in springs area in central and northern Florida and authorizes money for sewer conversions. That same approach has yet to be used for the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.

Lawmakers will tread carefully to protect the environment without trampling on property rights. Stringent regulations likely would face a backlash from property owners and builders, as did the now-defunct law mandating inspections, which Stuart Sen. Joe Negron opposed.

"What I don't support is having government come to people's property and inspect their septic tanks and inform them they have a $20,000 bill to replace a septic tank or have to pay a giant fee to hook up to sewer lines," said Negron, a Republican who will be Senate president in 2017-18.

SCIENTIFIC Evidence

Septic systems dump more than 4.4 million pounds of nitrogen every year into the 156-mile-long lagoon, although Lake Okeechobee discharges are responsible for dumping more nutrients in the southern lagoon, according to a study released in November by Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. Even septic tanks that function properly don't remove nitrogen and phosphorus, both contributors to toxic algae blooms.

Martin County, which commissioned the study, is considering whether to require all properties to be on a sewer line if there's one available.

Brian Lapointe, Harbor Branch research professor and study team leader, said he hopes increased scientific evidence of the harms of septic systems pushes lawmakers to implement a statewide program to identify the areas where septic tanks should be replaced with sewer lines and to secure more funding to help replace tanks near troubled waters. That's what happened in the Florida Keys, where the state mandated all Monroe County properties be connected to sewers.

Republican Rep. Debbie Mayfield of Vero Beach pushed for a simpler solution last year with a bill that would have allowed for a less-expensive hybrid system the city wanted to implement, which connects septic tanks to sewer lines. The bill died and the city has been lobbying the Department of Health to approve the projects without legislative action.

The state shouldn't leave the decision to counties and municipalities, Lapointe said, because their elected officials face more pressure from property owners who don't want to pay for the switch, which can cost anywhere from roughly $5,000 to $20,000. To offset those costs, local governments can apply for Department of Environmental Protection grants or ask the Legislature for money.

"Most of us have realized this is a problem," Lapointe said. "Having this density of septic tanks in this poor soil condition and high water tables is a recipe for disaster, and that's exactly what we are seeing play out."

Amendment 1

The state should spend more money for septic-to-sewer conversions, Negron said, but added local governments and property owners should share in the cost as they do today.

Amendment 1 provides a new funding source, he said. Voters last year approved the land and water conservation measure to dedicate one-third of real estate transaction tax revenue to buy, restore and improve conservation land and water resources. While Negron said improving sewer systems fits that purpose, many environmentalists and Amendment 1 sponsors oppose using the money for septic-to-sewer conversion. They say that's the responsibility of local governments.

Whatever the funding source, the longer communities wait to switch, the more expensive it becomes as labor and materials costs increase with inflation, Lapointe said.

"My point is, you can pay now or you can pay later," he said. "This is why it comes back to leadership in Tallahassee. It needs to begin there and trickle down to local governments

   
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 http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/lake/os-lk-lauren-ritchie-another-niagara-wants-water-20151204-column.html

Orlando Sentinel

New bottler shouldn't get OK to tap aquifer

By Lauren Ritchie

Dec. 4, 2015

You can't water your lawn when you want, but a new water-bottling operation is asking to pump millions of gallons for profit and probably will get an OK to do it.

The request is for more water than the controversial Niagara Bottling plant pumped when it first opened in Groveland. Are you surprised? You shouldn't be.

Florida's water-management districts can't say no to anyone. Despite a sloppy application, chances are high that Spring Water Resources of Ocala — doesn't the clever name sound like it's a group doing good? — will be getting permission to pump 181 million gallons a year.

The company's plan is to withdraw water from 10 acres just south of County Road 470 and east of U.S. Highway 301 in Sumter County. Some 144 tanker trucks a day would take the raw water to the Azure Bottling plant in Leesburg, owned by a Fruitland Park couple.

There, plans call for bottling the water and selling it to five retailers, including Niagara Bottling and Nestlé Water, according to a business plan filed with the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

The proposal is to drill a 10-inch well near Fern Spring, but don't worry — the application swears that tests show the pumping won't hurt the spring at all. Never mind that engineers at the water district have never even heard of the process the water company's consultant used to determine the spring is safe.

In a Nov. 24 letter to Spring Water Resources manager Darryl C. Lanker, a senior district engineer asked the consultant to explain her methods and to disclose precisely how many feet the proposed well would be from the spring. Seems that she left that little tidbit out of the application.

The engineer also noted that the well was pinpointed in two different places on maps, that it is proposed for a flood plain without a plan to keep floodwaters from contaminating the well and that it appeared only one flow test was done — three years ago. The engineer pointed out that the applicant hadn't suggested any way to mitigate the withdrawal from what's known as the upper aquifer, where all the sweet water is buried, and he questioned the conclusion that two springs on the property would be unharmed.

Longtime environmentalist and Lake County Water Authority Chairwoman Peggy Cox snorted aloud at the very notion that a 10-inch well near a spring wouldn't reduce spring flow before giving her personal opinion: "Good luck with that. The spring will probably not exist much longer."

Niagara, Cox said, also started with upper-aquifer withdrawals and got permission in 2014 to double the amount it pumps to roughly 365 million gallons a year by agreeing to pump from more than 1,000 feet deep, where water must be treated before drinking it.

So, is this new request just a way for Niagara to avoid having to deal with the water in the deeper aquifer? Perhaps.

But the problem is bigger. It's this: We like bottled water. People have gotten used to drinking it, and habit is a power motivator.

Bottled water is for drinking by humans, and that's the very "best and highest use" of sweet aquifer water, according to the experts at the districts who issue the permits. The fact that Niagara water sells for $4 to $5 a case and a typical utility charges only $2 to $5 for 1,000 gallons doesn't bother them in the least.

We also like to water our lawns, but the water districts aren't shy about trying to change that particular bad habit by imposing restrictions and making water more expensive. Too bad they don't have the courage to take on water bottlers, too.

Not many years from now, water experts at the districts will have to decide whether residents or for-profit companies rank higher when it comes to handing out the last of the cheap, easily accessible water in the upper aquifer.

The region has been consuming 800 million gallons a day from the aquifer, and hydrologists say pumping 850 million gallons is the point at which springs and wetlands will begin to degrade. Technically, utilities and other big users already have permits to pump the remaining 50 million, but they don't need it right now and aren't withdrawing it.

The trustees of the water districts must realize that the people paying their salaries have a valid point when they say the water should be theirs. The board of the Southwest district has an opportunity to forge a new path by turning down this request.

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Lauren invites you to send her a friend request on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/laurenonlake.

 
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 http://www.newsherald.com/article/20151205/NEWS/151209494

  •  Panama City News Herald

  •  Plan announced to better monitor toxic algae

  •  A regional nonprofit group is crafting a plan to better protect coastal communities from harmful algal blooms like red tide, which the Florida Panhandle area experienced this year for the first time since 2007.

By VALERIE GARMAN
News Herald Reporter

Posted Dec. 5, 2015 at 3:18 PM

PANAMA CITY BEACH — A regional nonprofit group is crafting a plan to better protect coastal communities from harmful algal blooms like red tide, which the Florida Panhandle area experienced this year for the first time since 2007.

The Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System Regional Association (GCOOS-RA) released a new plan last week outlining strategies and funding priorities to better protect coastal residents and marine life from the effect of toxic blooms, which can lead to fish kills and respiratory irritation.

Barbara Kirkpatrick, executive director of the organization, said the plan for the Harmful Algal Bloom Integrating Observation System (HABIOS), a part of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS), calls for agencies to line up their existing resources to better predict and monitor algal blooms in the Gulf.

“The Gulf of Mexico has multiple existing systems that monitor and forecast the development and movement of’” harmful algal blooms, Kirkpatrick said. “… We're not taking full advantage of the capabilities we currently have Gulf wide.”

Local environmental officials told The News Herald last week traces of red tide remain off the coast of Bay County and other areas of the Panhandle after first appearing in early fall. However, they said the effects of the Karenia brevis bloom, the most well-known species of harmful algae, are beginning to ease.

Kirkpatrick cited an often staggering economic loss from red tide outbreaks — through its effect on recreational and commercial fisheries as well as tourism. Additionally, the blooms impact the health of humans and marine life, and incur additional costs for coastal managers dealing with the effects.

“By developing a comprehensive plan ... we can help people stay healthy and help coastal communities be better prepared for red tide impacts,” she said. “That’s what HABIOS will do when it’s fully operational.”

Overall, the goal of HABIOS is to improve monitoring, data management and modeling capabilities, while also filling in gaps in existing systems. For example, organization officials cited an imaging instrument first used in 2008 to capture and identify harmful varieties of plankton. The tool since has been used to provide early warnings for toxic algal blooms by feeding real-time data into the GCOOS portal.

In addition to a more streamlined monitoring process, the plan also will provide the type of blueprint needed to secure state and federal funding for management and response to these blooms.

“We have limited funding nationally to develop and implement new systems to protect residents and deal with the effects of (blooms) on the environment,” said Zdenka Willis, director of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System. “Working together under the framework laid out in the HABIOS plan, we will address this issue through collaboration, data sharing, public outreach and education among all agencies and organizations.”

The mission of the GCOOS-RA is to establish reporting and forecasting stations in the Gulf, similar to those monitored on land by the National Weather Service. The group is comprised of industry leaders, marine scientists, resource managers, non-governmental organizations and stakeholders who gather data and share information.

   

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